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Veteran signs three-year contract

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New Jersey Nets started the
process of replacing Kenyon Martin on the front line by signing
Eric Williams to a three-year, $12 million contract Friday.

Williams, 6-foot-8, has averaged 9.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in
nine NBA seasons. He split last season between Boston and
Cleveland, averaging 10 points and 4.0 rebounds in 71 games.

"He is a quality NBA veteran who can play both forward
positions," Nets president Rod Thorn said.

Williams also provides a presence on defense.

"I come in the game defensive-minded," Williams said. "I'm
just trying to get my teammates to understand the defensive concept
role."

Williams is from New Jersey and still has a house in Newark,
which is about 20 minutes from Continental Airlines Arena.

"It gives me a chance to come back home," he said. "That's
always a dream."

Williams joins a club looking to rebuild after signing and
trading Martin, an All-Star power forward, to the Nuggets, and then
trading starting shooting guard Kerry Kittles to the Clippers. Both
moves were to save money.

The Nets would have had to pay Martin $23 million this year in
salary and front-loaded bonuses had they matched Denver's proposed
seven-year, $90 million offer. Kittles and his $10 million contract
were shipped to the Clippers for a second-round draft choice.

New Jersey made sure All-Star point guard Jason Kidd had someone
to throw the ball to for the next few seasons, giving small forward
Richard Jefferson a $78 million contract extension on Thursday.

"Jason Kidd is the top guard in the league," Williams said.
"He's going to make everyone around him even better. Kittles is a
great shooter. Losing someone like that, of course, is always going
to hurt a team, but we have a great young player in Richard Jefferson. We've still got the pieces to compete, especially in the
East."

The Nets have won three straight Atlantic Division titles. Their
two-year run as Eastern Conference champions ended in the
conference semifinals with a loss to eventual NBA champion Detroit.